The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cash-starved Asim revives Mitra policy

Calcutta, Oct. 20: A decade-and-a-half after Ashok Mitra’s tenure as finance minister, the CPM in Bengal appears to be planning an action replay with a strong anti-Centre campaign on the economic front.

The going for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s New Left government can only get tougher due to the funds crunch that might force it to take harsher measures at the cost of public sympathy.

Back from Delhi after a meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, finance minister Asim Dasgupta is expected to urge Bhattacharjee at a meeting tomorrow to unleash a sharper response against the Centre’s “step-motherly” attitude towards Bengal.

Mitra had kick-started a vicious campaign against the then Congress government led by Indira Gandhi.

It is understood that Dasgupta, too, is likely to advise the chief minister to restore the now-rusty slogans on how the Centre was depriving the state.

The Left government had made Centre-state relations a national issue during Mitra’s tenure. This time, Dasgupta is trying hard to play the same bash-the-Centre card to cope with the financial crisis.

Observers said the state has little else to do but to raise hackles against the Centre for its financial burden — the government employees’ salary being a major part of it.

The government is not paying the pending installments of dearness allowances to its staff, much to their dissatisfaction.

To compound matters, the Centre has turned down the state’s proposal to drop the rate of interest on its loans.

“The decision will certainly go against our interests,” said Dasgupta. “Of our government and we will face difficulty in running the administration. Naturally, we have every right to launch agitation against the Centre,” Dasgupta reportedly told some senior CPM leaders which he is expected to repeat during his meeting with Bhattacharjee tomorrow.

Dasgupta is expected to brief Bhattacharjee on the current economic situation in the state that will not permit the government to clear the pending allowances to its employees immediately.

To cope with the situation, the state government is trying to give the people an impression that the government’s current financial crisis has generated from the wrong policies of the Union government.

It is learnt that Dasgupta, like his predecessor Mitra, will try to make whip up the issue of Centre-state relations afresh and, at the same time, urge both Bhattacharjee and Left Front leaders to go for an agitation against the Centre.


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